The future of work will be made up of agile organizations that are less reliant on the traditional model of all employees reporting to a centralized office building. We talked to Jason Mackey, the CEO and founder of Venturitas, a Boston-based management consultancy, that is on the forefront of the future of work. Mr. Mackey shared his perspective on how organizations need to evolve to survive, and how to manage an entirely remote organization.
Venturitas provides consultants to organizations, but it is not a traditional consultancy. Can you tell me why you started Venturitas?
Initially, we built a rather traditional management firm. I brought in a few friends experienced in consulting and we started booking clients. However, about six months in, we realized there was a growing need for something different; something disruptive.
We took a step back and asked ourselves if we wanted to be more than just another consulting firm. Naturally we said ‘yes’ and began building what would later be described as the world’s first “experience as a service,” or “XaaS” provider.
We’re currently hiring 1000 independent management consultants and are aiming to leverage their expertise in providing clients the services they need. We are also working on developing an AI component, initially built around Amazon Alexa, to enhance our service offerings and better serve our clients. More to come there.
What is experience as a service?
An analogy I like to use is describing what people did before Uber existed. Imagine landing at an airport and trying to hail a cab. The moment you raised your arm, you were bombarded by dozens of unlicensed gypsy cabs and other shady characters offering to give you a ride. It was impossible to tell who was or wasn’t safe. After Uber, the whole process of hailing a cab became much more pleasant. Many of these people applied and became Uber drivers; and Uber provided them legitimacy. Uber made the whole process of hailing a cab efficient and more reliable.
Venturitas is doing for independent management consultants what Uber did for individual licensed drivers. We not only make the life of a management consultant easy, but also make hiring and working with a management consultant much more efficient. Connecting independent management consultants with Venturitas clients who can derive value from their experience is what we do best.
Do you vet the consultants to ensure they can provide that value?
We have to make sure consultants are who they say they are, and that they can professionally deliver the service they offer. We run background and reference checks. And that’s never been a problem. We want people who are exceptional. It is incredibly important we staff the best talent possible.
What we are doing is different than companies like Catalent, or BTG. What our competitors offer amounts to glorified job boards. We offer our consultants freedom in how and when they work, but we also offer consistency in the type of work they’re engaged in. We match consultants with clients, not the other way around. Sometimes there might be one consultant needed, and other times it might be five to ten consultants, and we staff accordingly.
How is the role of consultants changing in terms of the value they offer organizations?
Management consulting is ripe for disruption. Years ago, when you brought in McKinsey, they would come in and collect a bunch of information, work their magic, and then spit out results. Everything was very secretive. Today things are much more transparent. No longer is it a mystery how they come up with results. Their ways are public, and business managers don’t need a McKinsey to figure it out.
As a result of this transparency, consultants are shifting from advisory roles to much more comprehensive end-to-end solution providers. When you’re partnering with a Venturitas consultant, you get outsourced co-founders capable of providing you data to help you make better decisions on your own.
We can act as outsourced cofounder, and organizations do not have to worry about internal politics or us looking to step on anyone else’s feet. We are only looking to help our clients overcome one problem, and move on to the next problem.
What other motivations do organizations have for hiring consultants instead of traditional employees?
There are financial savings to hiring us. But the biggest reason a company would hire a consultant is based on the job market. It is incredibly difficult to find top talent today. We’re nearly at full-employment. It is often more effective to hire consultants instead of hiring and training full-time employees. In fact, many companies are transitioning away from employees to contractors to augment specific challenges they are working on.
Is there a specific type of work that is best suited for consultants versus employees?
High level thinking is best done by consultants. Analytical or technical work is best done by internal employees. Our goal is to be as objective as possible, and to help organizations overcome strategic challenges.
We really don’t like doing one project for a company. We’d rather stick with one firm, and help them grow. Most of our clients have less than 500 employees, and we want to help them to scale.
Why do you think professionals are drawn to becoming consultants?
For the first few of our consultants, they were former C-level executives with decades of experience, and they were drawn to Venturitas as a way of reentering the job market. And because they are independent consultants, they have much more freedom over their day to day. Our consultants determine their own availability and make their own schedules. That flexibility is compelling. We enable our consultants to take ownership of their professional career. Everyone is interested in that and being able to work where they want to. It’s a win-win.
If you’re a Venturitas independent management consultant, you don’t have to worry about billing, or selling. It makes your life that much easier and allows you to focus on the client and the work at hand.
Have you seen an interest from all generations of workers?
Everyone is interested, but we have seen the greatest interest from boomers. Age discrimination is real and many high-tech firms, though they won’t admit to this, aren’t hiring people older than 50.
Which is crazy to us because those are the people we want; we want people with experience. And baby boomers, by definition, have more experience than millennials. Frankly, we don’t hire many MBAs straight out of school. We look for consultants with practical experience. I guess in that respect, we discriminate against the young!
It’s worth mentioning that the MBBs [top three strategy consulting firms] of the world love hiring kids right out of graduate school. And because they’re hired straight out of school, these new hires only have experience as consultants. They have no practical experience to speak of. Venturitas consultants, on the other hand, bring decades of real-world practical experience to the table. In that regard, an argument can be made that we’re more experienced than McKinsey.
What do you think the biggest challenges organizations are facing in the changing world of work?
Technology is disrupting how work is done. People are paying for whatever competitive advantage they can get. At one point it was talent. People would pay to get the top talent. The biggest challenge organizations are faced with now is competition on a global scale. And it’s sometimes difficult to recognize that you’re no longer just competing with the guy across the street; you’re competing with the whole world.
I don’t think most companies are aware of that yet, and the ones that are, are hiring consultants to help future proof their business. That’s why businesses, big and small, are hiring consultants. That is ultimately what we are trying to do — to help organizations compete on a global front.
Do you have a global, remote team at Venturitas?
Yes. We are headquartered in Boston, but operate in New York, Toronto, London, Paris, and Berlin. In fact, we’re a 100% virtual company. We can work anywhere. If we do need to use an office, we rent. Why would we ever bother paying a full-time lease? WeWork does just fine for us. Besides, most of the work we do is done onsite with a client.
Have you faced any challenges running a remote team?
Creating a corporate culture is one of the biggest challenges we face. It is difficult to make people feel like part of a community and part of a team. We need to bring in 1000 consultants and keep them on the same page, and keep them engaged. That is the biggest challenge to anyone who wants to build a virtual company: fostering and maintaining corporate culture.
Do you feel like you have been successful in building that culture?
We are working on it. We have used Facebook Workplace, which is a hollowed-out shell of Facebook, that allows us to develop our own internal social network. We use Slack for instant communications with leaders and our executive committee, and we have a number of other technologies at play to keep everyone in the loop around the world.
A sense of community and a corporate culture will take time. Frankly, our ability to maintain a collaborative community can make or break any virtual company. It’s critical that we get this right.
What do you think the biggest asset is to remote working?
Flexibility, and scalability. We can deploy anywhere we need to; and we can do so quickly. And I think people are happier when they can work how and where they like.
That said, I believe in integrating key elements of a traditional office. We have routines. We conduct regular conference calls and other events to help our team members feel as though they all work in the same building; even though they’re thousands of miles apart.
Productivity is key. If a team member isn’t’ productive at home, we give them access to a coworking space. I am someone who can’t work at home. So, thanks to WeWork, we can provide office spaces to those who want to work with fewer distractions.
How do you plan to leverage artificial intelligence to provide better services?
We are AI-driven. The comparison I like to make is again through Uber. Today, Uber has millions of human drivers. Someday, in the not too distant future, they might exclusively rely on autonomous vehicles. Similarly, today we have a talent pool comprised of human consultants.
But, eventually, as AI catches up to human intelligence and natural language, AI might replace our human talent pool. We’re mindful of that and working to hire dating scientists to research that possibility. And if we can better leverage AI in the near-term through Alexa or Google Home, we can provide a huge advantage to our clients. AI is and will be key to strategy consulting within the next decade. And we intend on leading that transformation.
Companies like BCB or McKinsey, they have the resources to deploy AI, but I don’t think will. They are making lots of money on their current business model of employee labor. The disruption will come from the bottom. The future is coming from AI. It’s exciting.